Monday, January 31, 2011

I have salty fingers and I am not a sex object

I realized that I feel slightly uncomfortable licking my fingers in front of boys. While eating, I mean. (I'm thinking about this because I eat my lunch in class twice a week this semester, and that's more conspicuous eating.) It feels a bit provocative, a bit like I'm trying to call attention to myself.

That pisses me off.

Why do so many ordinary actions automatically become sexual when a woman does them? Why does there have to be this collective mental library of commercials and ads and movies where we've seen that action in slow motion and with music or a sex face?

Could an attractive woman climb the ladder out of the pool in a tight, dripping swimsuit (as swimsuits are wont to be/after having been swum in) and simply be a person exiting the pool? Because that's probably what she is, first and foremost.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And sometimes, licking salt off your fingers means nothing except that there's salt on your fingers and you don't have a napkin.

Freedom to be sexual is all very well, but it doesn't mean much without freedom to NOT to be sexualized.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

"I am absence. The pursuit of heaven."

One day, I will be what I want to be.
One day, I will be a bird, and will snatch my being out of my nothingness.

The more my wings burn, the more I near the truth and arise from the ashes.
I am the dreamer's speech, having forsaken body and soul
to continue my first journey to what set me on fire and vanished:
The Meaning. I am absence. The pursuit of heaven.

One day, I will be what I want to be.
One day, I will be a poet. Water will depend on my vision.
My language will be a metaphor for metaphor.

- Mahmoud Darwish
from "Mural"

Friday, January 28, 2011

Knitting and watcher

Look how suspicious this man is of the girl sitting on the floor with a camera to her face. And he should be.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

If the shoe fits, Che...

"At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality...We must strive every day so that this love of living humanity will be transformed into actual deeds, into acts that serve as examples, as a moving force."
- Che Guevara

"You might think love of humanity in general was safe, but it isn't. If you leave out justice you'll find yourself breaking agreements and faking evidence in trials 'for the sake of humanity' and become in the end a cruel and treacherous man."
- C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Academic love affairs

I am not at college by default.

I used to be, on account of being a middle-class USian, but then I took my leave and thought long and hard about returning to this college, returning to any college, before deciding that yes, I would finish a degree. At that point, it was a pragmatic decision: I didn't want to be held back in the future by a lack of B.A. and I knew there would not be an easier time than now to get it.

Sometimes I wonder whether I'm not still in college just to improve my occupational outlook. But not that often. Because in between leaving and returning to this college, I found my major and collided with some disciplines that at times feel physically necessary to my being. (Wrapped in women's studies, I sleep deeply; anthropology feeds me when I am hungry...)

Pieces come together—gorgeous connections happen between political philosophy and culture theory, or introductory theology and history of astronomy. I read articles from academic journals when I want to know more about something, and I understand them and enjoy them, sometimes unnaturally so. I am learning the words and ways of thinking that allow me to understand and articulate and engage what is urgent to me. I get to read and listen and synthesize until I think I can't anymore, and I get to talk seriously to people my age about what we agree must be talked about.

I get tired, of course. But then there are nights like tonight where an idea gets whirling in my head, and I know how to explain it and I'm thinking of this quotation in that essay and how I just saw the perfect illustration and how it ties in with so-and-so's dialectic etc. etc. and my skull is boiling with excitement that wouldn't make sense to most people, but people care here, they care that much about what we are all doing and I understand and there's so much more to understand if only there will be enough time awake. And then I just knowknowknow that I am in the right place, and I am so lucky.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Week in photos (38-44)

View from my dorm stairwell.

Marxist parallels with Christian eschatology.

Aforementioned gratitude journal.

Culture theory.

Waffle fries with my old roommate & suitemate. My first time at a Chick-fil-A.

  San Bernardino Valley moon.

My mom getting Chloe dressed up for a wedding.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Rat hands, rat face

Austin Scarlett. (Yes, named for the season one Project Runway designer.) Almost two years old, fat, sweet, adventurous, likes to taste fingers. Having him to keep me company is one of my favorite things about my room at home.

I asked for him for my twentieth birthday. I was home that semester and I didn't have friends in the city. And I wanted something to take care of as I was relearning how to take care of myself. It sounded slightly silly given my age, but it turned out to be the best idea.

Rats are awesome pets, in case you don't know. Much nicer and more fun than any of the mice or hamsters I've had and known.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

An honesty rehearsal

Could you say what you need to? Or write it?

Not on an anonymous postcard, but to the person who needs to know it? For the sake of fixing as well as just for the sake of saying?

How can you know unless you do it?

And if you know you need it, do you believe me when I say that nothing here is worth your silence?


You remember before when we emailed and traded truths. Some of you said really serious things. In return I gave you some of my own more vulnerable truths, serious or maybe kind of stupid, and it was a privilege for me.

I'd like to open that forum up again. But a little differently.

This time, email me if you know you need to tell your truth to someone besides me. Not just someone who can listen, but someone who can help fix.

You know what it is, probably the first thing you think of / perhaps you've been writing about it to yourself for months or put it in an anonymous confession form once. That heavy thing you are tired of being alone with, that grudge you don't want to carry any longer, a fear that is diminishing you with its presence, even if you don't know yet exactly who to tell, or how—

Determine to yourself that your honesty must be told. Then write to me, share however much or little of it with me as you want / I will hold it for you for a short while, and that can be your rehearsal—and then I will wait with you as you let it fly. Courage; we are courageous together. Let's claim some peace.

Happiness and gratitudes

my room smelling of jasmine rice. how my half-accented friend pronounces "curry." sharing a simple post-yoga dinner with her, sitting on floor.

returning to yoga class. I went for a couple months last spring and it was great, but I let it drop off my priorities. I shan't again. it's free for students here. "Take care of the body and the mind will follow."

writing letters in the evenings.

how much I have improved my study habits in the past two years.

turning the heater on first thing in the morning.

eating mindfully. without distractions, and insisting on distinguishing emotional hunger from physical hunger.

getting accustomed to reading literary German again.

Skyping. (about 23x better than phone calls).

earlier bedtimes and fewer long naps.

my room.

cucumber gel face mask, and the smell of cucumber anything. sharp, fresh, faintly sweet. rain-like.

that it is possible to understand a reading assignment without reading every word. (thank goodness.)

my new gratitude journal. Christmas gift from Liv. gorgeous. new favorite bedtime ritual. I'll take pictures for you.

many plans for Making Things once I return home to my stuff and have time again.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Week in photos (31-37)







37/365. "Hey, I haven't taken my 365 yet today."

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Eye candy and brain food

A live webcam on the Reykjavík City Pond. (I dunno if it was up two years ago, but if it was, I would have been on that feed for a minute or two, hah. Trudging along the eastern end of the pond, full of jetlag and wonder....No, I am not nostalgic AT ALL.)

Em has just gotten her Etsy shop up and running. Cutesy plastic jewelry, of course.

Random academic sentence generator. Funny 'cause it's true, um, yeah. Thanks, Q.

Snow crystals.

Mixtape: our hearts are shining.

"People with higher IQs (intelligence quotients) tend to be more active nocturnally, going to bed later, whereas those with lower IQs usually retire to bed sooner after nightfall." Read here. (Granted that IQ is of debatable significance. BUT STILL.)

A December court ruling you may not have caught: good news for email privacy.

On the growing field of cultural neuroscience:
"When an American thinks about whether he is honest, his brain activity looks very different than when he thinks about whether another person is honest, even a close relative. That’s not true for Chinese people..."
Recipe: Peppermint Patties.

Haiti one year after the earthquake (in photos).

Shokoofeh's done a film swap with a Danish photographer, and the results are lovely. (If you don't know, film swap means shooting over a roll of film exposed first by another photographer).

Winter is not white! These photos: exactly!

Neil Gaiman's photography.

Winter bodysurfing at my home beach.

Friday, January 14, 2011


1. a stranger whom I could not have NOT photographed. 2. the usual. 3. sidewalk furniture. 4. walking at home. 5. someone who was my friend when I was very young.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Pressing close

I sketch for myself with the desk light
the outline of a cave
and fill it with
the shadows of my hands, my familiars,
who press vaguely
as I work
against its walls with their wings.

Snow has been falling since
before I woke
I pushed the window high
between the second and third floors
The color of winter is not white,

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Things that are making me happy

• people who have left their Christmas lights up 

• no classes before eleven o'clock (this will be good for my attendance as well as my sleep)

• contesseration Skype dates

• boys with curls

• affirmation

• native German accents

• my heater working again

• putting every single topping I like all on one salad. everyday. haha.

• trading most of my Sunday for a later, indirect flight and $500 in Southwest vouchers

• theory

• a soft warm sweater in a cold boring classroom

• meeting other people from Northern California here

• retrospection

Agnes Obel

• a new person with fascinating mannerisms

• feeling like I can make anything work

Monday, January 10, 2011

Suburban monsters

I observed this one at the train station on its way into Chicago. I do not think it was dangerous.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

2011: Intentions

Concrete things like "exercise more" or "procrastinate less"—I would rather deal with those on a more immediate basis than make year-long resolutions. When you look back on a year, you look for wide impressions, landscape views, and that's how I prefer to look over the coming year as well. 

My wide intention for the year is to risk more. Especially:

To do more things that I'm not certain I will succeed at or enjoy.
     Simple enough; another assault on the dreaded inner tyrant Perfectionist. Less hesitation, bolder ambitions, more attempts, more new things...more messes and failures, and more learning.

And to lower my guard a bit.
     I sometimes hold bad grudges with people I know, and I can keep friendships with new people at a superficial level almost indefinitely. But trust will never not be a risk, as long as people are imperfect—and when I do not trust enough, my friendships stagnate and I start to feel very lonely, and it's no good. Yet how to stop being afraid of the pain of being hurt by a friend? I suppose it's like any other emotional fear: If you wait to act until it's gone, you will never move, so you acknowledge it and then you make your way through it.

I am not going to let myself simply hold my ground this year.

I read 81 books in 2010

The best:

Anthology of Modern Chinese Poetry, by Michelle Yeh

Revolutionary Letters, by Diane di Prima

The Art of the American Snapshot, 1888-1978, by Sarah Greenough et al.

The Ghosts of Ashbury High, by Jaclyn Moriarty

Second Language, by Lisel Mueller

Unfortunately, It Was Paradise, by Mahmoud Darwish

73 Poems, by e.e. cummings

Poetry in Person, by Alexander Neubauer

Writing Away: A Creative Guide to Awakening the Journal-Writing Traveler, by Lavinia Spalding

Photographs: 1970-1990, by Annie Leibovitz

The Business of Fancydancing, by Sherman Alexie

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Read in December 2010

1. The Art of the American Snapshot, 1888-1978, by Sarah Greenough et al.
Jeez. Anonymous snapshots by normal people. I loved this so much; it made my heart feel full. Some of them are startlingly beautiful. The snapshot aesthetic fascinates me. Perhaps it's connotation, but it can be so poignant...

2. 73 Poems, by e.e. cummings
It seems to me that everyone who reads poetry has read and probably liked a handful of e.e. cummings poems. This was my first time reading a significant quantity of him all together. I enjoy his expressiveness, and I really enjoy the way my brain has to work to read his poems.

3. Aesop's Fables, by Leaf Munro
Eh. Not much to say.

4. Girl, Interrupted, by Susanna Kaysen
I really liked this. I think it's better than the movie. More interesting, less dramatic. Perfect structure: alternates between narration and personal essays about her two years in a psychiatric hospital. Genuinely funny and avoids the pitfalls of 1) getting bogged down in romanticized/sensationalized Sturm und Drang and 2) forcing the experience to be profound in ways that it wasn't or have a climactic "now I have made sense of everything" tidily tied-up takeaway. It's more like: this is what is was like; these are my thoughts.

5. Trickster's Choice, by Tamora Pierce
Coming back to Tamora Pierce's Tortall fantasies feels like coming home to me. Aly's not my favorite; she's a little too perfect and I don't love her mannerisms, but of course I enjoyed the book and read about a hundred pages of it at a time. The character Nawat and getting inside a new culture, that of the Copper Isles, were what I liked best about this one.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Things that are making me happy

• Laughing at my brother-in-law's ridiculous malapropisms and mishearings.
"One of my favorite things about our Harry Potter movie marathon? Hearing Phil talk about 'Snipes,' 'Dumbledorf,' and 'Valdemar.'" - my sister

• Waking up my German brain in anticipation of this coming semester.

• That I thought I had ruined a whole roll of film by opening the back when it hadn't rewound properly, but it turned out that fifteen out of twenty-four exposures were okay.

The Memoryhouse cover of "These Days."

• A long walk to a bakery for some pastry and coffee with my mama.

• A thrifted skirt which is swingy and purple and pre-worn enough to be soft.

• Sparkling wine.

• How the sky looks before it rains.

• Being sucked in by creative projects.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

To 2010: a farewell and my gratitudes

2009 was a dazzling year for me—2010's gifts were subtler.

I returned to my college after a year on leave. That was not so easy. My life for the past year had been beautiful and low-stress. I needed that calm in order to get well, but it didn't occur to me that my recovery wasn't finished; it needed to be tested under pressure, and and cracked and strengthened, and then tested some more—again and again. It keeps going like that. It doesn't always feel linear. That's real, though.

On the intellectual level, my understanding of mental illness has gotten much more sophisticated. I am no longer insistent on a mind-brain dichotomy, which means the biological bits and pieces become much more interesting, and I can't BEAR mainstream media coverage of eating disorders.

I have gotten a lot better at taking care of myself in times of stress and when depression or anxiety does come knocking. Mostly learning (slowly) from mistakes.

I spent a lot of time spring semester sitting on the floor in my contesserates' fourth-floor dorm room, reading aloud and drinking tea and talking with them. I have consciously reserved space for those nights in my future self's memory.

I have become more captivated by minimalism and 35mm. I get more ideas of my own that captivate me. I've given my intuition freer rein in creative pursuits, and it's been rewarding.

I bought my first SLR. I'm still not perfectly at ease taking pictures of strangers, but I have gotten markedly more comfortable doing so. That is necessary. I've been falling in fascination with people sometimes: it feels like a very objective sort of love. I just want to document them, catch their faces and mannerisms just right, see them just right, write down something true about them. Looking is a drug. Eye contact is a drug.

My big sister carried and gave birth to her first baby. My so-loved niece.

I decided to turn the leftovers of my old German major into a finished German minor after all. Cut some blunt bangs again, did the No-Pants Subway Ride, made some messes, swallowed my pride (better sometimes than others), did the NaPoWriMo thirty poems/thirty days challenge. Started copy editing at the school paper again.

My reading tastes have been changing. Fewer novels, fewer young adult, more poetry and non-fiction and photography. Not that I don't love novels and YA still, but they aren't what has felt urgent to me.

I'm living the cheapest I ever have, outside of—and partially because of—the cost of film and developing. With that and finishing up my major as quickly as possible, it feels tight and anxious sometimes, but I'll look back on this time happily, I'm certain, so I try to see from that perspective now.